Russia has announced that more than 250 athletes have been cleared to compete in the Rio Olympics next month even as President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia’s over 100 doping-related suspensions amounted to “discrimination.”
Russian Olympic Committee chief Aleksandr Zhukov said on July 26 that more than 250 of Russia’s 387 Olympic athletes have been cleared to participate, including Russia’s six triathletes and the entire wrestling, fencing, equestrian, table tennis, and trampolining teams.
More than 100 athletes, however — including Russia’s entire track-and field team — have been barred from going because of failed dope tests and evidence of widespread doping and state-led cover-ups.
Putin complained that the blanket athletics ban penalizes Russian stars like pole-vaulting champion Yelen Isinbayeva, who has never tested positive for doping.
“We can’t accept indiscriminate disqualification of our athletes with an absolutely clean doping history,” Putin said at a Kremlin ceremony to send off cleared athletes. “We cannot and will not accept what in fact is pure discrimination.”
“Not only have our athletes who never faced any specific accusations been hurt, this is a blow to the entire global sports and the Olympic Games,” he said. “It’s obvious that the absence of Russian competitors — leaders in many disciplines — markedly lowers…the intensity of the fight and that means the spectacle at the upcoming events.”
A tearful Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, stood by Putin’s side and urged Rio-bound athletes to “show them what you’re able to do — for yourself and for us too.”
Zhukov said the final list of athletes cleared to go to Rio will be released on July 30. No word has come out as yet about the fate of 21 athletes in a key Olympic sport for Russia — gymnastics.
The International Gymnastics Federation said earlier this week that it has established a “pool of eligible Russian athletes” and is awaiting approval from the International Olympic Committee.
The committee last week declined to impose a blanket ban on Russian athletes at the Rio games, despite evidence of widespread doping and state cover-ups, and left it to individual sports federation to decide who should be allowed to go.